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Image Credit: PA Herald
Image Credit: PA Herald

Leading organizational effectiveness


It's no small feat to arrange shelter, meals and other necessities for thousands of people dis-placed by wildfires, but with a coordinated effort, highly organized teams and a can-do attitude, dozens of Saskatchewan Polytechnic employees in Prince Albert and across the province did just that this summer.

As forest fires raged in northern Saskatchewan in July, more than 13,000 people were forced from their homes in the biggest wildfire evacuation in our province's history. A concerted effort between Sask Polytech employees volunteering their time, the Canadian Red Cross and several local organizations ensured the evacuees' needs were met until it was safe to return home. The evacuation period lasted three weeks.

"I've been here for 20 years and almost every year we've had evacuees here for a short time. This was the longest period and the biggest amount of evacuees we've ever had," says Al Skauge, facilities manager at Sask Polytech's Prince Albert campus.

Skauge explains that Sask Polytech has an ongoing agreement with the Red Cross to provide shelter and support with evacuations each summer if the need arises. "We can house about 135 people in the gym and we can also offer meal service, cleaning and security. We coordinate that part of it, and then the Red Cross looks after registration and everything else."

Approximately 5,000 evacuees stayed in Prince Albert — in hotels, with family or friends or at reception centres like Sask Polytech's. No matter where they stayed, they were offered three meals and two snacks a day at the Prince Albert Campus. At peak times, Sask Polytech staff and volunteers served about 475 people for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 350 for supper, for a total of 1,225 meals a day.

Other local agencies brought in a number of valuable resources. "There was a nurse practitioner and health nurses on site and we set up areas on the campus so they could meet privately with patients," says Skauge. "There was also a play area set up for the kids that was organized by the Prince Albert Grand Council."

Emergency preparedness planning with the Red Cross and other local organizations plays a big role in ensuring the evacuation process is as efficient as possible. But Skauge says none of it would be possible without the collaborative spirit he sees in his colleagues. "It's gratifying to see the team effort that everybody put in to make the evacuees as comfortable as possible," he says. He adds that a "good service approach" and listening skills are key. "If everyone has the same goal, it makes it pretty easy."

In Regina, Kelly Nelson was volunteering on behalf of the Red Cross to help lead the city's emergency response team. Nelson is facilities manager at Sask Polytech's Regina campus and has been a Red Cross volunteer for over 20 years. He logged over 140 volunteer hours coordi-nating support for the city's over 1,100 evacuees.

As a token of appreciation, all Sask Polytech employees who volunteered during the evacuation will be presented with President Rosia's newly created Exceptional Service pins to acknowledge their dedication.

"We are incredibly proud of our employees in Prince Albert and around the province for their volunteerism during the evacuation. Their efforts are a positive reflection on our institute," says Dr. Larry Rosia, President and CEO of Sask Polytech. "They worked long hours, gave up holi-days and provided wonderful service to thousands of people experiencing a very stressful situa-tion. It's great to see the leadership, accountability and cooperation they demonstrate in the workplace being applied in a community-minded capacity."

This is the final instalment of a four-part series highlighting Saskatchewan Polytechnic employ-ees who are demonstrating excellence in delivering on one of our four strategic themes:

1. Making successful careers possible, 2. Advancing economic and social prosperity, 3. Pursu-ing excellence in program quality and innovation, and 4. Leading organizational effectiveness.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic delivers programs and services effectively and sustainably. It at-tracts and retains the best employees and communicates effectively throughout the organization. Sask Polytech is accountable and practises good governance. Everyone at Saskatchewan Polytechnic understands and is committed to their leadership roles and responsibilities.

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